Should You Paint Stucco? (Must Read)

Homeowners have asked us about painting stucco on occasion. It’s rare, but there is a mix of information out there about painting stucco. Whether you should paint it, shouldn’t paint it, and with what product. Let’s take a look at our experience with it.

Should stucco be painted?

If you don’t like the color of the stucco the way it is, then paint it. We haven’t run across an un-paintable stucco yet. Stucco can come with colored finishes. These are excellent, because the color is mixed in with the stucco product and is resistant to fading. If your home or building has this type of stucco and you don’t mind the color, we always recommend leaving it be because of its durability.

If you don’t care for the color, or someone painted the stucco in the past and it’s fading, painting it is a fine way to update it.

Prep work for stucco

Stucco is a great siding material. Unlike wood, it doesn’t rot, and if your home is constructed properly, has little problems with settling, and the contractor applied the stucco correctly it can be low maintenance.

The issues we see with stucco are minor cracking up to major cracking or section failure.

  • Minor cracking Minor cracking is common and expected with stucco. Stucco is a brittle material, much like concrete, and as your home settles and moves around, cracking is likely to occur. Good construction will minimize cracking by ensuring the settling is minimized to the extent possible and that settling is even, i.e., one side of the home doesn’t settle 4 inches more than another. In the same way that there are “control joints” in concrete slabs, control joints can be used in stucco to control where the cracking occurs, though we don’t see this on all stucco homes. We don’t recommend doing anything about the minor cracking before painting. Depending on how minor the cracking, if a heavy elastomeric paint is used such as Sherwin Williams Duration, it will fill in the hairline cracks and they’ll be less noticeable. We’ve had people request we caulk the cracks before painting, and we will do so, but we warn that using a caulking for the cracks doesn’t make them go away. Stucco is porous, and caulking fills those pores. If caulking is applied at the cracks and painted over, it’s obvious where the cracks were caulked because filling those pores with caulking changes the look of the material. The decision is yours.

  • Major cracking or failure Major cracking or failure of the stucco surface must be addressed prior to painting. A major localized failure is obvious as the cracking will be large with stucco flaking off near the joint. In severe cases you’ll see the wire mesh backer in the stucco through the failure area. In this case what needs to happen is the entire bad section needs cut out and re-worked by a stucco professional before painting. Keep in mind that stucco needs a couple of weeks to cure before being painted.

After addressing the cracking, a good power wash of the surface and stucco is ready to be painted.

Painting stucco

The process we use for stucco differs depending on the type and condition of the stucco being painted.

Porous, dry, rough texture stucco

For this type of stucco, we always go for a spray and backroll. The rough stuccos that are dry always need the paint to get pushed down into the pores. Spraying the surface isn’t enough in our experience and the additional backroll step is required to achieve the desired finish.

Smooth, slick texture stucco

In these cases we paint with the airless sprayer only and no backroll. Using the spray with no backroll achieves the highest finish on a smooth stucco surface. Hitting the surface with the backroll can cause a stipple texture to appear on the surface, and depending on the color and leave lap lines or start/stop marks.

What product should be used?

All of the paints we commonly reach for on exterior projects are great for stucco. We paint a great deal of stucco with Sherwin Williams SuperPaint product and it works great. For heavy texture rough stuccos, we’ll recommend Sherwin Williams Duration due to it being thicker and an elastomeric (think stretchy). Duration will provide great coverage. For a smooth stucco on anything high end, we’ll recommend Sherwin Williams Emerald. It applies excellently, dries down evenly, and looks great.

We haven’t run across a stucco as of yet that we couldn’t paint with one of these three products. We have had homeowners request we use other paint products on stucco and we are happy to accommodate any and all customer requests. If it’s a product we are familiar with we can off our opinion on using it, and if it’s a product we haven’t used, we’ll look into it and make sure we are familiar with it’s application specs. Let us know how we can help with your stucco project by getting in touch with us today!